Minnow by James McTeer II

A slow read due to the fact that I started it after finishing the fast paced, action packed, Canary.

This book is about a boy whose father is sick, immobile, and on the brink of death. The boy wants his mother to stay at his father’s side as he goes out to buy medicine. The boy finds that the pharmacist does not have the medicine his father needs and sends him out to find someone who would have the medicine or something that… I actually can’t even remember what it was that first pharmacist said he needed. I didn’t care for this book; I don’t even remember it’s contents.

The word “negro” was thrown around and that bugged me a little because of the unclear time period of the book.

I assume the setting is meant to take place in a past time period where that word was acceptable but it’s never quite confirmed. There are ox carts.

It’s not like Huckleberry Finn where it’s used in dialogue because in the time period, it was a word that was often used. Judging from ox carts, and the boy having no shoes, I assume so, but I’m still never quite sure. And the fact that witch doctors are characters, surely, the word is unnecessary in a fantasy world like this one. It’s not quite historical fiction either.

This book is fairly new which is what bugs me about that word. Not just that; it’s in third person omniscient, and the author is using the word for description and outside of dialogue. Surely, as the outside narrator he could describe someone as having dark or brown skin or something more descriptive than saying, “A negro sat in it…” (Minnow 47). A few lines down, he uses the word again: “The negro in the barge was old…” Once its established the character, I think it’s just redundant to use the word again. It adds nothing to the story. Granted sometimes it is used in the dialogue; I’ll give him that.

And Rider Strong is right; authors’ pictures should not be included in book jackets and back covers. I want to judge a book by its story not by whose face is involved in the writing of this book. I only enjoyed some parts of this book, and the face in the jacket was a little annoying looking (when I become a famous author, this will probably be dug up for a tabloid story about my beef with this author; he may have died of old age by then because by the time I get published, I’ll be on the brink of old aged death myself, Ha!). For the record, there’s no real beef. Some real beef though, the unnecessarily thrown around word in this book. He lets up later on though.

All the initial annoyance aside, the imagery of the book is fascinating. The boy travels through a descriptive forest of darkness and through a river that seems to try to drown the forest. He faces a mysterious monster that lives in the water, and you can hear the scary gurgling of the water. I enjoyed the descriptive fantasy and imagery of the book. I enjoyed it when there was action like when the boy runs into a group of hunters and when the boy finally finds the witch doctor who knew he was coming, and when the boy woke up with one eye.

The imagery got old and repetitive. I don’t even know what palmetto trees are, but one could play a drinking game with how many times the author told you they were there and poking the character or drooping over the character or the character looked up at it.

The novel paints a pretty picture, but it’s got no story. I got up to the last few chapters, and then skipped and skimmed the last chapter to find out how it ends. Unimpressed. There was no character development, no real showing this boy’s fear and sadness of losing his friend, a stray dog and no relief when they’re reunited over and over throughout his journey.

I feel like he just added obstacles just for the sake of the boy having obstacles in an attempt to make the book exciting. Like the stupid wild boars ramming into the tree that the boy climbed. And just the two? I don’t get it. He must have read Lord of the Flies.

I didn’t feel there was character development. This kid met friends and then had to leave them behind. He saw one of them lose his mother. He was beaten by wold boars. All of these things traumatize a kid, and I didn’t see trauma and change. It’s unrealistic for a child to be so focused on one thing even if it is his father’s life. I could put myself in the kid’s shoes (though he had none) and imagine how I would have dealt with his misfortunes, but reading the novel gave me no emotions except for irritation like I was trying to finish it for the sake of an exam.

And in a way, that’s what I was doing. I couldn’t stand not being able to finish that book before I needed to turn it back into the library. I failed that challenge though. I had to renew my check-out, and then by the time the extended due date came around, I didn’t even want to finish the little I had left of the book.

I wouldn’t say it’s a terrible book, and you shouldn’t read it. Because maybe my annoyance was due to whatever anger-inducing thing was going on in my life at the time of reading this novel, like my poor performance at my new job and annoying sports anchors.

To me the book was pages of frilly language and not enough story and character substance. Maybe that’s your taste, and you’ll like this book. Read it, and tell me I’m crazy.

Reading this book has taught me that I enjoy suspense and action. Seems like written imagery is low on my priority list. Tell me what’s happening and the imagery will emerge in my own mind. That’s probably why my ability to describe where a character is and their surrounding is almost non-existent. I should work on that.

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